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Health Protocols

Surgery - Preparation and Recovery


In the United States alone, almost 50 million inpatient surgeries are performed each year (Stanford Health Care 2017f). These surgeries can range in complexity from removal of benign skin tags to brain surgery. For many patients, surgery is a life-saving event.

Modern surgery is relatively quick, precise, and effective, taking advantage of decades of research and the most advanced technology. With the help of robotics and imaging, incisions can be kept amazingly small for many procedures (Peters 2018; Jacob 2003). In addition, anesthesia practices have become much safer (Botney 2008; Schnittker 2015), and researchers are finding ways to use artificial tissues and organs (Di Bella 2018; McGilvray 2018; Atala 2000). 

In recent years, a whole field of research has been dedicated to finding ways to improve patient recovery after surgery (Steenhagen 2016; Ljungqvist 2017). This research has identified many steps patients and their medical teams can take before, during, and after surgery to optimize the patient's health, improve safety, and speed recovery. For instance:

  • Immunonutrition formulas can boost the patient's immune system to help fight infections and keep inflammation in check (Xu, Sun 2018).
  • Preoperative fasting times can be kept short to maintain the patient's strength and blood glucose levels (Sarin 2017).
  • Physical activity can be initiated soon after surgery to shorten the hospital stay and improve chances of full recovery (Steenhagen 2016; de Almeida 2017).

Several nutritional supplements should be considered by patients preparing for surgery and those in the post-operative recovery period. For instance, nutrients that quench free radicals, such as vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, melatonin, and curcumin, can protect tissues from the oxidative damage associated with surgical procedures (Sadeghpour 2015; Liu, Cheng 2017; Esteban-Zubero 2016; Hewlings 2017). Zinc can help in wound healing (Lin 2017). Whey protein may help improve functional capacity after surgery (Gillis 2016). Omega-3 fatty acids can help inhibit many aspects of inflammation in response to stressful events (Calder 2018; Kiecolt-Glaser 2014).

In this protocol, you will learn about the three phases of surgery: the preoperative period, the surgery itself, and the recovery period. Patients can undertake action that may improve their status during each of these three stages. You will also learn about novel and emerging surgical strategies and ways to improve your nutritional status to speed recovery and enhance the chances of more successful surgery results.

Readers are also encouraged to review the Trauma and Wound Healing. It is important that aging people who plan to undergo surgery review the Immune Senescence protocol as well because immune decline during aging has been associated with altered inflammatory response to surgery. Thus, it may be pertinent, especially for aging people, to take steps to bolster their immune health before undergoing surgery (Zhao 2015). Lastly, readers scheduled to undergo surgery for cancer should also review the Cancer Surgery protocol.